In a statement released yesterday in support of legislation that he is co-sponsoring that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limited regulatory authority over tobacco products, Congressman Henry Waxman hid from the American people the fact that this legislation is vigorously supported by the nation's largest tobacco company and implied, incorrectly, that Big Tobacco is opposed to the legislation.
Representative Waxman stated: "The days of Congress doing the bidding of the tobacco industry are over. This long overdue legislation would give FDA broad powers to regulate tobacco products and protect public health."
The Rest of the Story
In my view, this is an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. The truth is that by enacting the FDA legislation, Congress would be doing the bidding of the largest tobacco company - Philip Morris. Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris) is lobbying vigorously for passage of the legislation, which it has called its chief legislative priority for the current session of Congress.
Telling the public that the days of Congress doing the bidding of the tobacco industry are over implies that Big Tobacco is uniformly opposing the legislation.
But the truth is that Philip Morris - the largest company that makes up Big Tobacco - strongly supports the legislation. So it is disingenuous to tell the American people anything other than that Congress will be doing the bidding of Philip Morris if it enacts this legislation.
If you're not willing to tell the truth, then you are in no position to be introducing legislation to tell the tobacco companies what they can and cannot do. You are in no position to complain about deceptive statements that tobacco companies are making.
Representative Waxman now joins Senator Kennedy and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in what is, ironically, a campaign of deception that aims to end the deception by tobacco companies.
Regardless of one's position on the proposed legislation, what I would hope we can all agree is that if deception on the part of tobacco companies is wrong, then deception on the part of public health practitioners and policy makers is also wrong. In fact, I find it even more disturbing, because I view it as our ethical responsibility to be honest, forthright, and transparent in our communications with the public.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and its coalition of health groups has every right to stand shoulder to shoulder with Philip Morris in helping the nation's largest tobacco company achieve its prized legislative goal. But they have no right to deceive the American public in order to promote that legislation.
I find the entire effort by the nation's major anti-smoking groups (led by the Campaign) to promote the FDA tobacco legislation to be one huge campaign of deception. When the two chief sponsors of the legislation cannot get in front of the American people without pulling the wool over our eyes, you know you've got problems.
I don't think it's possible for me to overstate the extent of my condemnation of the tactics of supporters of the proposed FDA tobacco legislation. Honestly, I don't see anything more ethical in their behavior than in the deceptive communications of the tobacco companies.